South AfricaOfficial Name: Republic of South Africa
Passport must be valid for at least 30 days after date of departure from South Africa
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
Passports must have at least two fully blank unused, visa pages upon entry for endorsing visas, permanent residence permits, and entry/departure stamps
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Not required if visiting for 90 days or less
Yes, if entering from a World Health Organization (WHO) designated yellow fever country
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
1 Sandton Drive (opposite Sandton City Mall)
Telephone:+(27)(11) 290-3000 / 011-290-3000 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone:+(27) 79-111-1684 / 079-111-1684 (from within South Africa)
Fax: +(27)(11) 884-0396 / 011-884-0396 (from within South Africa)
U.S. Consulate General Cape Town
2 Reddam Avenue, West Lake 7945,
Cape Town, South Africa
Telephone: +(27)(21) 702-7300 / 021-702-7300 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) 702-7300 / 021-702-7411(from within South Africa)
Fax: +(27)(21) 702-7493 / 021-702-7493 (from within South Africa)
U.S. Consulate General Durban
303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street (formerly West Street)
31st Floor Old Mutual Centre
Telephone: (+27)(31) 305-7600 / 031-305-7600 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) 079-111-1445 / (031) 305-7600 or 079-111-1445 (from within South Africa)
Fax: (+27)(31) 305-7691 / 031-305-7691(from within South Africa)
U.S. Embassy Pretoria
877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia
Telephone: +(27)(12) 431-4000 / 012-431-4000 (from within South Africa)
Fax: +(27) (12) 431-5504 / 012-431-5504 (from within South Africa)
The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria does not provide consular services to the public.
South Africa is a parliamentary democracy and is, in many respects, a developed country, although much of its population lives in poverty. All major urban areas have modern, world-class hotels and tourist facilities. Game parks and areas most often visited by tourists have a wide range of facilities. Food and water are generally safe, and a wide variety of consumer goods and pharmaceuticals is readily available. The capital is Pretoria, while the seat of parliament is located in Cape Town. Johannesburg is the financial capital and largest city in South Africa. Durban is home to Africa’s busiest port and is the number one domestic tourist destination for South Africans. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on South Africa for additional information on U.S.- South Africa relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
The South African government has announced that the new regulations pertaining to the travel of children will be enforced beginning October 1, 2014. Those new requirements are discussed in detail below. Travelers are encouraged to obtain birth certificates, parental consent affidavits, and other documentation well in advance of this deadline. All travelers should visit the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) website and check the latest requirements with the nearest South African embassy or consulate before traveling. If traveling by air, you may also wish to consult your airline.
Rules Applicable to all Travelers
Your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after your intended date of departure from South Africa.
South African law requires travelers to have two fully blank visa pages. Blank “endorsement” pages are not sufficient. The blank pages must be “visa” pages. All travelers should have at least two fully blank passport visa pages upon each arrival in South Africa, including following trips to neighboring countries.
Travelers without the requisite blank visa pages in their passports will be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at their own expense.
As a general precaution, all travelers should carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from their passport.
U.S. citizen visitors to South Africa for stays of up to 90 days for tourism, short business meetings, or in transit do not require visas in advance. Visitor visas will be issued at the port of entry in South Africa. Applications to extend visitor visas may be submitted for a single 90-day extension while in South Africa and must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the expiry of the current visa. Additional extensions will not be accepted unless the visitor is in need of emergency life-saving medical treatment for longer than three months, or is an accompanying spouse or child of a holder of a business or work visa, who wishes to apply for a study or work visa.
All other travelers, including tourists intending to stay beyond 90 days, visiting professors, students pursuing a course of study, entrepreneurs, workers, intra-company transferees, and volunteers, must obtain appropriate visas before traveling to South Africa or they risk being denied admission and being returned to their point of origin.
Applications to extend a visa while in South Africa must be submitted no less than 60 days prior to the expiry date of the visa, or if the visa was issued for less than 30 days, not later than seven working days before the expiration of the visa. See the DHA website for information about how to apply to extend the period of stay.
Travelers who overstay their period of authorized presence by 30 days or less will be declared “undesirable” by immigration authorities and barred from entering South Africa for a period of 12 months. Travelers who overstay a second time within 24 months will be declared undesirable for two years. Travelers who overstay for more than 30 days will be declared undesirable for a period of five years.
Travelers who have been declared undesirable may appeal this decision. Appeals must be e-mailed to: Overstayappeals@dha.gov.za. The following documents must be submitted with your email:
1. Written reasons for your overstay and why the decision should be reversed;
2. A copy of the declaration of undesirability (form 19) that was issued at the Port of Entry;
3. Copy of the relevant pages of the passport, including page with prior visa and biographical information page;
4. Acknowledgment of receipt (in cases where the applicant has applied for a permit and the status is still pending);
5. If the applicant overstayed due to medical reasons, a medical certificate must be submitted.
For confirmation that the appeal has been received applicants may contact the IMS Operational Centre at (012) 406-4586.
Rules for Children – Beginning October 1, 2014
These rules apply to all children under age 18 who are entering, transiting, or departing South Africa, including children who permanently or temporarily reside in South Africa. Therefore, the required documents should be retained in all circumstances throughout the stay of the child in South Africa.
All children under age 18, including those traveling with both parents, must travel with an “unabridged birth certificate” to be presented to South African immigration officers. The South African regulations use the term “unabridged birth certificate.” The exact contents of unabridged birth certificates vary among the different jurisdictions that issue birth certificates (countries, states, counties, cities, etc.), but the key distinction between an “abridged” and “unabridged” birth certificate is that an unabridged birth certificate identifies the parents of the child. Some children are born to single mothers without a father being identified on the birth certificate, but that birth certificate listing only the mother is still considered an unabridged birth certificate.
The birth certificate must either be in one of the eleven official languages of South Africa (including English), or be accompanied by a sworn translation of the document into one of the eleven languages. Most travelers will find that an English translation is the easiest to obtain.
South African authorities have confirmed that for U.S. citizen children born overseas who have a U.S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), the CRBA will satisfy the requirement for an unabridged birth certificate because it identifies the child and the parents and is in English.
To avoid potential denial of entry because of questions about the validity of photocopies of the document, children should travel with an original CRBA, or with an original or official certified copy of an unabridged birth certificate. For U.S. birth certificates, parents should request official certified copies from the state, county, or city vital records office that issued the birth certificate. Parents are encouraged to obtain original or official certified copies of their children’s birth certificates well in advance of travel and keep them handy for the duration of their stay in South Africa. Information about how to obtain vital records from each U.S. state and territory is listed on the vital records page of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Parents may request a replacement CRBA or order additional copies of a CRBA directly from the U.S. Department of State for a charge of $50.00 per document. Instructions are available on the CRBA webpage
When BOTH parents listed on the birth certificate are traveling with a child, the parents must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child.
When only ONE parent listed on the birth certificate is travelling with a child, he or she must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child and the following:
(i) An affidavit from the non-traveling parent giving consent for the child to enter and/or depart South Africa with the traveling parent. The affidavit must contain contact information for the non-traveling parent. A new affidavit must be given by the non-traveling parent for each trip undertaken by the child in accordance with the child’s current itinerary. Blanket affidavits covering extended periods of time and an indefinite number of trips will not satisfy this requirement. You may find a sample affidavit of consent on the U.S. Mission to South Africa website; or
(ii) A court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship of the child to the traveling parent or legal guardian; or
(iii) Where applicable, a death certificate of the other parent registered as a parent of the child on the birth certificate.
Where a person is travelling with a child who is NOT his or her own child, he or she must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child and the following:
(i) An affidavit from the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the child confirming that the person has permission enter and/or depart South Africa with the child. The affidavit must contain contact information for the non-traveling parent(s) or legal guardian(s). A new affidavit must be given for each trip undertaken by the child in accordance with the child’s current itinerary. Blanket affidavits covering extended periods of time and an indefinite number of trips will not satisfy this requirement. You may find a sample affidavit of consent on the U.S. Mission to South Africa website; and
(ii) Copies of the identity documents or passports of the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the child.
Note: Where the parents of the child are both deceased, and the child is travelling with a relative or another person related to the child or the child’s parents, the South African authorities have the discretion to approve such a person to enter or depart South Africa with the child. It is recommended that the relative or other person travel with copies of the death certificates of the parents.
An unaccompanied minor must produce an unabridged birth certificate and the following:
(i) An affidavit from the child’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s giving consent for the child to enter and/or depart South Africa. The affidavit must contain contact information for the non-traveling parent(s) or legal guardian(s). A new affidavit must be given by the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) for each trip undertaken by the child in accordance with the child’s current itinerary. You may find a sample affidavit of consent on the U.S. Mission to South Africa website. If only one parent or legal guardian provides proof of consent, that parent or legal guardian must also provide a copy of a court order issued to him or her in which he or she has been granted full parental responsibilities and rights for the child; and
(ii) Copies of the identity documents or passports of the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the child; and
(iii) A letter from the person who is to receive the child in South Africa, containing his or her residential address and contact details where the child will be residing; and
(iv) A copy of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive the child in the South Africa.
Yellow Fever Vaccinations
Travelers entering South Africa from WHO-designated yellow fever countries are required to present their current and valid “International Certificate of Vaccination as approved by the World Health Organization (WHO)” (commonly called a “yellow card”) or statement of medical exemption (also located on the same yellow card). Additionally, South Africa treats Zambia and Tanzania as yellow fever countries. This requirement has been imposed on travelers flying to South Africa via yellow fever countries, even when travelers transiting a yellow fever country do not deplane in the yellow fever country (e.g., flights stopping in Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana; or Nairobi, Kenya), or if the plane makes an unscheduled landing in a yellow fever country. As a precaution, all travelers to South Africa should carry their original yellow vaccination card. South African immigration inspectors do not generally accept letters, scans, copies, or faxes regarding prior yellow fever vaccination. While this requirement may not be consistently applied, travelers who cannot present an original and currently valid yellow card risk being refused entry into South Africa. Yellow fever vaccinations are not administered at South African ports of entry for the purpose of entry into South Africa. Travelers are reminded that they are required to obtain a yellow fever vaccination at least ten (10) days prior to their arrival in South Africa in accordance with WHO regulations. South Africa may apply these requirements to people traveling from or through both high-risk yellow fever countries and low-risk yellow fever countries.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of South Africa.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page. For country specific information about customs regulations, please visit the website of the South African Revenue Service.
Safety and Security
Terrorism: Anti-U.S. violence is not common in South Africa, but the Department of State remains concerned about the continued worldwide threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. You are encouraged to review the most recent Worldwide Caution issued by the Department of State.
Xenophobic Attacks: South Africa has seen a number of attacks directed at refugees or immigrants from other African nations in recent years. Many of the attacks were centered in Johannesburg and the province of Gauteng in low-income neighborhoods and informal settlements, but other incidents have taken place throughout the country. Both targeted victims and bystanders have been killed. Incidents of mob violence have sprung up quickly and proven difficult for local authorities to control. You should listen to local media for reports of such incidents and avoid areas (primarily--but not limited to--townships) where they are likely to occur.
Public Disturbances and Strikes: Organized or wildcat labor strikes occur regularly in South Africa. Service delivery protests also occur frequently and are generally motivated by poor residents’ frustrations with shortfalls in public service deliveries. While both types of disturbances – labor strikes and service delivery protests – are generally localized and normally occur well away from typical tourist destinations, these disturbances can develop quickly, unpredictably, and occasionally turn violent. Strikes can also interrupt the provision of electricity, water, fuel, and other goods and services. During strikes by public workers, access to government offices, public hospitals and schools may be difficult due to protests and picket lines. Use caution and steer clear of any area where protests, demonstrations, or other public disturbances are taking place. South Africa has many private medical facilities/services that may not be impacted by public-sector strikes. Note: Security Messages issued regarding demonstrations and strikes will now be posted on the U.S. Mission to South Africa’s website.
Public Transportation: Public transportation accidents involving trains, buses, minibus taxis and private cars are a regular occurrence in South Africa. In addition, minibus taxis and buses have been targeted by criminal elements for hijacking and robbery. Often, the safety and security standards on public transportation systems – especially in urban areas and townships - in South Africa are not on par with what travelers would expect in the United States. The use of individual metered taxis from established taxi companies and tour buses is recommended. The Gautrain, which travels between the airport and Johannesburg/Pretoria, is considered a very reliable and safe mode of transportation.
Game Park/Safari/Hiking Safety: While visiting game parks and reserves, it is dangerous to leave your vehicle or be on foot, even in the presence of a guide. You should observe all local or park regulations and exercise appropriate caution in unfamiliar surroundings. Visitors have been seriously injured and killed by wild animals in South Africa. Even in the most serene settings, animals are wild and can present a threat to life and safety.
Visitors hiking in mountainous areas, including Table Mountain near Cape Town, should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions and ensure they have proper clothing and supplies.
Ocean Safety: If visiting South Africa’s expansive coastline, be mindful of the possible presence of sharks when swimming or engaging in water sports. From 1990 to 2011, a total of 136 shark attacks, 22 of them fatal, occurred in South Africa. In 2012 at the Fish Hoek and Jeffrey’s Bay beach and other areas of the Cape Town and Western Cape coastlines, and at Port St. John’s in both 2012 and 2013 in the Eastern Cape, several people were attacked by sharks, and some of the attacks were fatal. When lifeguards and shark spotters are on duty and sight a shark close to the shore, local authorities will sound a warning siren to alert swimmers.
Accidents can occur when swimming in the ocean or walking/climbing on shore areas that are not designated lifeguard-patrolled beaches. Visitors from the United States and elsewhere have drowned when swimming in coastal waters, where riptides, tides, and wave patterns can change unexpectedly and overwhelm even excellent swimmers. Do not swim alone in isolated beach areas. Do not dive into unknown bodies of water, as hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in South Africa on Twitter and visiting the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking our Traveler’s Checklist for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: The majority of visitors to South Africa complete their travel without incident, but South Africa has a very high level of crime and crime is the primary security threat for travelers. Violent crimes, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles, are frequent and affect both visitors and residents alike.
Note: Visitors to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and U.S. Consulates General in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg should be aware of the risk of muggings, several of which have occurred near U.S. diplomatic facilities. While measures have been taken to address concerns about potential muggings, visitors approaching U.S. government facilities should be aware of their personal security and carry as little money and valuables as possible.
Visitors and residents are advised that ongoing criminal activity involving organized crime such as assault, armed robbery, and theft, can be particularly high in areas around hotels and public transportation centers, especially in major cities. Theft of passports and other valuables is most likely to occur at airports, bus terminals, and train stations.
Criminal gangs target individuals and commercial businesses at shopping centers and other public places. Criminals sometimes follow targeted victims back to their residences or hotels where they are robbed. Such robberies often involve weapons and violence can quickly escalate, especially if you resist. If you are confronted by an armed assailant, give up your valuables.
Cash-in-transit (armored vehicle) robberies are common. You should avoid traveling near these vehicles and personnel during a cash delivery or pick-up, particularly at shopping centers or other public locations.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in the world, with more than 66,000 reported sexual offenses in 2012-2013, a rate of 127 sexual offenses per 100,000 population. While most rape victims are local residents, foreign visitors are also victims of rape. All victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention, including antiretroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS. Questions about how to receive such treatment should be directed to the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy.
Several U.S. citizens and other travelers have been robbed at gun point while traveling in motor vehicles from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to their place of lodging. In some instances, the robberies took place after the vehicle arrived at a hotel, guest house, or private home. In other instances, the vehicle with the passengers was boxed in and stopped by two vehicles on the street. Travelers should select shuttle or taxi services with care, use reputable companies recommended by major hotels or shuttles provided by hotels, and use only licensed taxis parked at marked taxi locations at the airport. Travelers should avoid changing money at the airport, and avoid displaying expensive or flashy jewelry, watches, or luggage while traveling.
There have been reported incidents of fake South African Police Services (SAPS) or other South African law enforcement vehicles masquerading as official vehicles involved in hijackings or robberies. When in doubt and as a precaution against being stopped by “bogus” police, motorists are advised to put on their hazard lights and to drive slowly to the nearest South African police station or to a well-lit or well-populated area such as an open gas station, supermarket, or hospital to establish if they are being stopped by genuine police.
In the Western Cape, police resources have been strained by continuing gang conflicts and vigilante violence in the low-income areas and informal settlements around Cape Town. People who are unfamiliar with the Cape Flats/Khayelitsha area, surrounding townships, and squatter camps should not visit these areas. Additionally, travelers should be aware that muggings and attacks have occurred along popular hiking routes on Table Mountain and around Lion’s Head and Hout Bay. Visitors to these sites should be vigilant, hike in groups, and not carry/display valuables.
Crime in Durban remains high. Visitors should avoid traveling in the city center after dark, as well as all travel to the surrounding townships. The suburbs north and west of the city are generally considered to be safer than the city center, but all visitors should remain vigilant and exercise situational awareness at all times.
Car Thefts and Carjacking: Carjacking and thefts from cars are serious problems. Keep your car doors locked and the windows rolled up at all times. Hide bags, cell phones, and other valuables from view at all times and be extremely cautious when approaching intersections. “Smash-and-grab” robberies are common throughout South Africa, particularly in urban areas, at traffic lights, stop signs, and highway off-ramps. A criminal, sometimes posing as a vendor or beggar, will walk between lines of vehicles waiting at an intersection, surveying the contents for valuables. Once an item of value is identified, the perpetrator will quickly smash the window, grab the item from the car, and flee. In another scenario, an individual (or two working in tandem) may indicate to a driver an apparent flat tire or other problem and wait for the driver to pull over or exit the car before grabbing exposed valuables.
If you see a car pulled over to the side of the road do not stop to offer assistance, but rather call the police to report the vehicle’s location so that authorities can render assistance. Park your car in well-lit areas, preferably in a parking lot with security guards. Physically check that your vehicle is locked before you walk away. Criminals have perfected the technique of blocking the signal from wireless remote locking devices.
Criminals, working in groups, have placed debris on the road (rocks, bricks, shards of metal, etc.) in an effort to puncture a vehicle’s tires. Another less-frequently used tactic is for criminals to throw rocks, bricks, paint, or eggs from freeway overpasses onto moving vehicles to damage cars and disorient drivers. The drivers are robbed by accomplices after pulling over to inspect the car for damage.
ATMs and Credit Cards: Criminals often loiter near ATMs, targeting persons withdrawing cash. A common scheme is the “Good Samaritan” fraud, where a criminal attempts to “help” with an ATM transaction. Often the ATM in these situations has been tampered with to record the card information, and the “Good Samaritan” will then take the information and use it to withdraw cash later. Avoid using ATMs in dark, remote, or isolated areas. Use ATMs located inside shopping malls, hotels, and banks since they are normally high-traffic areas and are monitored by security guards and cameras. Do not accept “assistance” or agree to assist others with ATM transactions.
Criminals have also used commercial explosives to blow up ATMs in South Africa. ATM bombings have taken place in the early morning hours in remote or isolated areas, although some attacks have taken place at gas stations and shopping complexes.
Incidents of credit card fraud, counterfeit U.S. currency, and various check-cashing scams have also been reported. When giving your credit card to a store or restaurant employee for processing, do not let the card out of your sight. Most South African restaurants and gas stations have portable credit card machines that can be brought to your table or car.
Hotel Security: Thefts from hotel rooms are common. You should use hotel-provided room safes or lock-boxes at the front desk to store your valuables.
Financial and Romance Scams: Visitors should also beware of telephone, Internet, and e-mail fraud schemes, which attempt to win the confidence of unsuspecting persons who are persuaded to enter into a romantic relationship via email, or to provide financial assistance, or to travel to South Africa and assist in a supposedly lucrative business venture. Since 2008, there have been several cases of U.S. citizens losing thousands of dollars and putting themselves in danger by responding to either romantic or financial scams (also known as “419 scams”). “Lonely hearts” scams are a common and growing problem, with “engagements” via the Internet used to lure victims into sending money to assist with supposed education, legal, health, or job problems. If you are contacted by someone who you have met only online claiming to be a U.S. citizen asking for financial assistance, instruct the person to contact the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. You should exercise extreme caution when sending funds to individuals overseas for any reason whether your relationship with them is of a business or personal nature. Some scam victims have traveled to South Africa only to lose more money, and in a few cases, to be physically attacked or kidnapped for ransom. Click to view the State Department’s financial scam web page. If you have lost money in a financial scam, please file a report with your local police and with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Victims can also report Internet fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or by phone, toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
To check on a business’s legitimacy while in the United States, contact the International Trade Administration, Room 3317, Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230, telephone: 1-800-USA-TRADE or 202-482-5149, fax: 202-482-5198. If you are abroad, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Airport Safety: Travelers leaving O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) have been targeted by criminals for robbery while en route to their hotels or places of residence. As such, all travelers should be extremely vigilant when leaving the airport and ensure that a reliable mode of transportation is used (such as arranging pick-up directly with a hotel, or using airport-approved modes of transport, such as Gautrain or official metered taxis from the taxi rank).
Concerted efforts have been made to reduce luggage theft and pilferage at O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), with noticeable results. However, travelers are encouraged to lock their suitcases when possible and avoid placing valuables in checked baggage. A good practice, regardless of destination, is to make an inventory of items and contact your air carrier immediately if you experience a loss.
Criminals are known to also target travelers at ATMs in airports. Travelers should refer to the above section, “ATM Scams,” for security precautions at ATMs.
Firearms: Travelers to South Africa may not import or take in-transit any firearms or ammunition without a temporary import or in-transit permit issued by the South African Police Service. Information on how to obtain a permit for firearms for personal protection and hunting can be found at the South African Police Service’s Firearms website.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in South Africa is 10111.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in South Africa you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. If you violate South Africa’s laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in South Africa are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. In South Africa, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you or if you take pictures of certain buildings. In South Africa, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. If you break local laws in South Africa, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: HIV and AIDS remain major public health concerns in the Republic of South Africa. According to the UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic (2010), about 5.6 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in South Africa, with 17.8 percent of the adult population (15-49) affected.
Women are disproportionately affected, accounting for approximately 55 percent of HIV-positive people. Women in the age group 25-29 are the worst-affected, with prevalence rates of up to 40 percent. For men, the peak is reached at older ages, with an estimated 10 percent prevalence among men older than 50 years. Public awareness in the country as to how to protect against infection is wide-spread and increasing. However, we recommend you exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in sexual activity, or if you are exposed to a blood source other than that supplied by a hospital for transfusion purposes.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: South Africa is one of the most progressive countries in Africa in the protection of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) rights, but it still faces a number of challenges. The post-apartheid constitution outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and the Constitutional Court (the equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court) ruled in 2005 that gay marriage is allowable. Parliament passed a law in 2006 allowing same-sex couples to marry. As a result, South Africa has become a same-sex marriage tourism destination. There have been no reports of official mistreatment or discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Although the legal system protects LGBT individuals, public attitudes toward them are divergent. In a Pew Research Center study released in 2013, 61 percent of respondents said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while just 32 percent said it should be accepted. Human rights groups reported the local LGBT community, particularly in the townships, was subject to hate crimes, gender violence, and killings. There have been no reports of violence against U.S. citizens or tourists as a result of their sexual orientation, though tourists are frequently victims of violent crime. LGBT travelers outside of major cities should exercise caution when visiting traditional communities, as they may be less accepting of public displays of affection or LGBT culture than major cities and tourist destinations.
For more detailed information about LGBT rights in South Africa, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in South Africa, U.S. citizens with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what is found in the United States. South African law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but these laws are rarely enforced. Even in government buildings, it is not unusual to encounter entrances with multiple stairs and elevators that have not been operational for some time, and many private businesses are no different. However, many tourist attractions, and restaurants near the tourist attractions, are better-equipped with ramps and other options to facilitate access. If you are a traveler with a disability, you should plan ahead to ensure that your lodging and planned activities are able to accommodate any special requirements.
Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks, but they may be limited elsewhere. Pharmacies are well-stocked, and equivalents to most American medicines are available. However, travelers taking specific medications should bring an adequate supply for their entire stay and a prescription with them. Nearly all private South African hospitals are owned by one of the following three corporations:
Information about locating private hospitals can be obtained by accessing these companies’ websites.
While most of South Africa is malaria-free, malaria risk exists throughout the year in rural low-altitude areas of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, including Kruger National Park and neighboring game reserves. Risk also exists in the coastal lowlands of KwaZulu-Natal north of the Tugela River (including in Zululand, but excluding urban areas of Richards Bay). Risk is much lower from June to September. Visitors should prepare accordingly and use malaria prophylaxis and mosquito repellent. For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC's malaria web page.
Many insect– and tick-borne illnesses are present. Tick and insect precautions are recommended. Schistosomiasis is present in far northeastern and eastern coastal freshwater bodies, including untreated water around game parks and inland resorts. Travelers should avoid freshwater exposure in these areas. Note the Yellow Fever information under “Entry Requirements.” Please also note the information on South Africa’s high HIV/AIDS prevalence under “Special Circumstances” above.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in South Africa. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning South Africa is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
South African law does not require an international driver’s license for U.S. citizen tourists who are licensed to drive in the United States and who are in South Africa for less than six months. A valid driver’s license from any U.S. state or territory that has the signature and photo of the driver is valid to drive in South Africa for stays of less than six months. However, while South African law does not require an international driver’s license, insurance companies for both long-term residents and rental car customers often require proof of a South African or international driver’s license in order to honor an insurance claim, even when such proof was not requested at the time the policy was secured.
Unlike the United States, where traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road, traffic in South Africa moves on the left, and the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the car. Under South African law, all occupants of motor vehicles equipped with seatbelts are required to wear them while the vehicle is in operation.
According to the World Health Organization, the road traffic death rate per 100,000 population is nearly three times higher in South Africa than in the United States. The high incidence of road traffic mortality is due to a combination of poor driving, limited enforcement of traffic laws, road rage, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Travelers should use caution at all times when driving, and especially avoid nighttime travel outside major cities. Road conditions are generally good in South Africa; however, excessive speed, poor lighting on rural roads, and insufficient regulatory control of vehicle maintenance and operator licensing have resulted in an increasing number of traffic fatalities. Drivers should also take care to avoid pedestrians crossing roads or major highways.
Traffic lights are frequently out of order. Please treat all intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights as a four-way stop.
Travelers are advised to carry mobile phones. Please note that texting or talking without a hands-free unit while driving is a violation of South African law. U.S. mobile phones may not work in South Africa, but rental mobile phones are widely available and may be rented from kiosks at major airports. The nationwide emergency number for the police is 10111, and the nationwide number for ambulance service is 10177. It is not necessary to dial an area code when calling these numbers.
Pedestrian Safety: Take extreme care when crossing streets. Collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians are all too common on South African roadways. Pedestrian deaths occur regularly. Drivers are often aggressive towards pedestrians and fail to yield the right-of-way, even in marked crosswalks. The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban are located on busy city streets, and visitors should exercise caution when walking to and from these facilities.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of South Africa’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Assistance for U.S. Citizens
U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg
1 Sandton Drive (opposite Sandton City Mall)
- Telephone +(27)(11) 290-3000 (from South Africa 011-290-3000)
- Emergency After-Hours Telephone (011) 290-3000 or 079-111-1684 (outside South Africa: +(27) 79-111-1684)
- Fax +(27)(11) 884-0396 (from South Africa (011-884-0396)
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg